Standing in the space of the oldest house in Glasgow, founded in 1471, shows me what is possible when you build something with purpose; it out lasts change. The top floor of the house in Glasgow originally used by both church and hospital has a wooden bench by a window that looks onto the city with an outlook shared in my own.
The stone clad walls are a similar grey to the type in my old house. The room at the top was once inhabited by Cuthbert Simpson, a religious Canon and Master of the nearby Hospital, this dual identity helped the space survive political upheaval. His fireplace is open and not lit for many years, like mine, and the paintings on the wall remind me of the reproductions I hold.
The window shows a moving masterpiece of all that happens outside and the interpretation of the picture could be either to let people be and flow or interrupt them with a greeting and become part of the social buzz.
I watch them through the window as the fixtures are tightly shut.
The garden is full of a mixture of heavy green scents and soft flowers with delicate blooms. The purpose of the garden is to offer meditation and was originally part of St Nicholas’ Hospital that stood close to the house. The green space offers calm and purpose to the monastic community that shared the rooms, which let them live close enough to the Cathedral for worship. The house was a place to live freely but as it was founded Andrew Muirhead (Bishop of Glasgow 1455-73) no one strayed far from the disciplines of the Cathedral. Their work ethic meant they tended the medicinal garden on behalf of the hospital.
The intricate knot maze is at knee height and sculpted geometrically to create a puzzle to hold thoughts so personal growth can flourish. The stone wall changes colour in the rain whilst the view across to the stern and statuesque Necropolis remains unchanged in spite of political turbulence of the challenges of maintaining monuments and culture.
The oldest house in Glasgow has wooden stairs to the upper levels where paintings of famous visitors stand on the wall. The room that one of the Priest’s would have lived in is completely furnished to reflect one of notable resident, Cuthbert Simpson lived here between 1501-1513.
Provand’s Lordship stands firm and proud opposite the cathedral and facing the Necropolis. The colours in the brick are both warm and cold as shadows cut across the jagged texture. Unlike my own home I cannot stay here all day and closing time approaches.
The house was first used to house priests who also helped tend the gardens to make ingredients used to make medicine to heal the sick at the nearby hospitals.
The property has since been used for other purposes including a pub and a sweet shop
The garden space is pristine and has been redeveloped to show the purpose of a typical monastic garden with a small green for meditation and running water to bring abundance in the fountain.
The plants are organised according to the body systems they would heal. A number of plant-based medicines that use species grown here are used to save lives today.
Ultimately the bricks have stood the biggest tumultuous of history in the Scottish 16th Century conflicts between the Protestant and Catholic faiths due to the building having more than one purpose. Henry VIII armies left the property standing allowing the legacy of other noble men live on. The adjoining hospital was demolished in 1806 but the house stands close to the Glasgow Infirmary that was built in 1794 where the Bishop’s Castle stood.
The forethought of Canons and Bishops who founded the house with a dual purpose left Provand’s Lordship in rude health.
Glancing out one last time through the window and people still look up at this old house as they pass which reflects on the power of the Community that kept this well loved building active.